China is right at the forefront; the West no longer holds the reins
Published: May 29, 2024 07:01 PM
A scene of Lianyungang Port in Jiangsu, China Photo: VCG

A scene of Lianyungang Port in Jiangsu, China Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

As the Chinese economy, along with the entire global economy, faces considerable challenges in recent years, some Western officials and media outlets have stepped up their long-standing smear campaign against the world's second-largest economy. They cherry-pick information and even distort facts to hype various specious narratives such as "Peak China," while turning a blind eye to China's considerable strengths and vast potential. 

As part of the Global Times' multimedia project to set the record straight, the opinion page is publishing a series of in-depth interviews and signed articles with economists, experts and scholars from different countries who share their views on the prospects of the Chinese economy and debunk Western rhetoric.

In the second article of the series, Global Times (GT) reporter Ma Ruiqian talked to Pepe Escobar (Escobar), a Brazilian independent geopolitical analyst. Escobar noted that the Western elites refuse to admit that the West no longer dominates the game; the economic and geopolitical center of the world is now in the East.

GT: China is in full swing to advance high-quality development. How do you perceive China's pursuit of high-quality development and its accomplishments in this area?

As a foreign observer who has lived in Asia on and off for 30 years, I have closely witnessed China's rapid development across all levels. Despite facing challenges, such as brutal, vicious sanctions against Huawei, China has continued to make breakthroughs in technology. China's investment in education and its pool of talented engineers have allowed it to persevere and achieve success.

The Chinese economy is poised to become even more high-tech than it already is. It's amazing that many average Europeans still hold onto the outdated belief that Chinese products are cheap and don't last long. However, after spending just a few days in cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, or Shanghai, they quickly realize that China is already well into the 21st century, while much of the West is still stuck in the late 20th century. The disparity is enormous.

One of the best examples to convey to the West how rapidly China is advancing technologically is the high-speed rail network. When you show Westerners the high-speed rail stations across China, they often find it hard to believe. The integration of transportation in China, with its extensive network of high-speed rail links and modern airports, is unmatched in the West.

These practical examples of an economy developing in an integrated manner are what people in the Global South are paying attention to. When you talk to people in Latin America or Africa, the first things they notice are the Chinese high-speed rail, the fantastic airports, the efficient metro systems, and everything integrated in both the east and west of China.

GT: Why is the West constantly hyping negative rhetoric targeting the Chinese economy, such as the "Chinese economic collapse" theory? 

I must confess that I'm losing my patience reading what so-called China experts in the West write and say about China because 99 percent are totally wrong, and they refuse to admit their errors later on. They keep saying the same things: The economy is about to collapse, China doesn't have a program for long-term development, and so on. Obviously, there are challenges, but China is actively working to address them while maintaining its drive for modernization, which involves investing in education and various high-technology sectors. These challenges will be addressed progressively; there's no magical solution that can solve everything in a matter of weeks or months.

The so-called analysis in the West is a mixture of misinformation, bad faith, and a significant element of xenophobia. This is because the Western elites refuse to admit that the West no longer dominates the game; the economic and geopolitical center of the world is now in the East.

GT: Facing global economic turbulence, as a member of the Global South, what contribution does China make to the stability of the world economy? 

I think the best example is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In fact, there's no competition to China's organization of a new geoeconomic paradigm of connectivity, corridors, and economic integration across most parts of the Global South. While the Americans and Europeans are offering something remotely similar to the BRI, their approaches do not work.

It was great at the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation last year in Beijing. They were discussing the next steps of the BRI, which is going to be much more focused and streamlined. Projects will be analyzed very carefully compared to the previous ones. The people organizing these projects are learning from previous lessons and, at the same time, becoming even more ambitious in terms of extending these projects to many parts of the world. 

For instance, the high-speed rail projects like the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway are transforming regions for the better. It's absolutely amazing, especially when you compare it to the fact that the US doesn't even have high-speed rail. So China is already on another level. And in terms of how the Global South views it, they say, we want the same thing for our economies.

GT: You once referred to "growth, development and prosperity" as a summary of China's direction in 2024. Could you elaborate on this?

This year holds significant importance for several reasons. Firstly, China is advancing its modernization process, as evidenced by the two sessions in March, toward a higher-quality modernization. This is entirely achievable as China possesses all the necessary resources. They have a strong educational system, advanced technology, and crucially, an abundance of energy and food to drive the development process. 

Second, the expansion of BRICS is a significant development. China plays a key role as one of the leaders of BRICS, guiding new member nations and potential participants in the upcoming BRICS summit in Russia in October. It is possible that we may see the formation of BRICS 13, 14, or even 15 in the future, expanding beyond the current 10 member nations. These countries will be instrumental in shaping a more multipolar world. There is much that can be gleaned from the Chinese development model, and these nations stand to benefit from studying and learning from it.

Third, this year, we are witnessing a shift in the paradigm: The West no longer holds the reins. It's now in the hands of the global majority, primarily in the East. China is right at the forefront, leading the way. The paradigm of the global majority brings a multipolarity developing world paradigm of increased integration and modernization.

I think 5 percent is quite realistic. The key point is about how you are going to accomplish 5 percent to the benefit of Chinese people. China growing at 5 percent means that there will be a substantial amount of Chinese investment, especially across Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and even West Asia. So if you achieve 5 percent, there is a spillover effect that is very positive for people inside China and those around it. It's feasible. Obviously, the Chinese leadership will never come up with a figure that they know is impossible to achieve. So you see the whole process is already like a Chinese high-speed rail train that has left the station. It's already on the tracks and moving. The destination is a 6 or 7-hour trip, a long journey, but the train is already rolling.

GT: The US and some other Western countries are pushing for "decoupling" from China. How will this affect Chinese economy? 

It is an invention of American think tanks, who are hailed as China experts in Washington, actually have extremely superficial knowledge of the country. When you look at the way both economies are intertwined on so many levels, decoupling is implausible. From an American point of view, decoupling is counterproductive. As the US has deindustrialized, they have to buy virtually every manufacturer product, mostly from China. It's not feasible to shift production to countries like Vietnam due to its insufficient production capacity compared to China. While some so-called experts in the US may advocate for decoupling, in practical terms, it's very simple: If the economies are decoupled, the US could even be starving.

On one side in the West, we see the logic of war and confrontation, while from the Chinese and BRICS perspective, there is a focus on integration, connectivity corridors, and trade using their own currencies, aimed at helping the development of areas around the world. Through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China can undertake projects in Central Asia, across Africa, and in parts of Latin America, sharing Chinese expertise and experience with these regions. 

Within the BRICS framework, there is further progress. The yuan is increasingly used across the Global South, which is significant compared to just a few years ago. Additionally, there are discussions within BRICS about establishing a payment system that bypasses the US dollar entirely. China plays a crucial role in BRICS, contributing to the development of a new paradigm that utilizes a basket of currencies, including the ruble, the Indian rupee, and the Brazilian real, to bypass the existing international financial system. This will be adopted by the most of the Global South. China's position is thus vital and responsible, as it is one of the major powers shaping the emerging new world order. So this is how you are forging the new world, and China is right in the middle of it.